The hyperextension is an appropriate assistance movement to aid in building posterior chain strength for the squat and deadlift. The hyperextension can be used in virtually any program that has a focus on strength, hypertrophy, or a mix of both. It can also be used to properly teach someone how to activate the glutes during movements such as the good morning, deadlift, Romanian deadlift, and virtually any other hip hinging movements.
Why It’s Useful:
The hyperextension serves a handful of purposes:
- It strengthens the posterior chain (lower back, glutes, hamstrings).
- It can be used as an assistance movement to improve the squat and deadlift totals.
- It can be used as a primary glute or hamstring movement for bodybuilding purposes.
- It can be used as a secondary glute or hamstring movement to add more volume.
- It’s also beneficial for lower back health as some lower back pain can stem from weak glutes and tight hamstrings.
While the movement looks to predominantly target the lower erector spinae, it’s also targeting the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and hip adductors. And the way you perform the movement will dictate which muscles are targeted.
How to Perform Hyperextensions
There are two ways to focus on muscular development and strength building in the hyperextension. The first and perhaps most common method is to target the hamstrings, and the second method is to target the glutes. Slight variations in placement relative to the glute ham pad will make a difference in which muscles are targeted. Being deliberate — bordering on slow — for the tempo will help you feel muscular recruitment more effectively to determine which groups are getting emphasis throughout the movement. Instructions for each variation are below.
Step 1: Start in the prone position with weights held to your chest (cross your arms if you’re doing bodyweight only).
For the starting position, you want to make sure your ankles are comfortably under the pads, and that the top of your thighs are against the padded area (also known as the prone, or face-down position).
Step 2: You want to stick your chest out, and keep your shoulders pulled back to keep your back neutral.
As you descend, you’ll feel most of the tension in your hamstrings. Go to a range of motion that gives you a good stretch in your hamstrings without releasing tension in your lower back. This range of motion will vary depending on your individual mobility and flexibility.
Step 3: Pause for a second at the bottom, and initiate the movement by contracting your hamstrings back to the starting position.
Make note that your waist is beyond the pad and that your upper thighs are against the pad. A quick example is if you were wearing a belt buckle, it should not be touching the pad, and should be hanging over it. The reason for this is because you want to be able to get a stretch in your hamstrings on the descent, so as your body spills forward, you want to initiate the movement at your hips, not your lower back.
Glute Focused Instruction:
- Start in the prone position with weights held to your chest (cross your arms if you’re doing bodyweight only).
- You want to internally rotate your shoulders and deliberately round your upper back. You want to make sure the majority of the tension is in your glutes on the contraction. As you descend, you’ll feel most of the tension in your hamstrings, but some will be in your glutes. Go to a range of motion that gives you a good stretch in your hamstrings but if you don’t feel a massive stretch here, it’s okay because of the starting position. This range of motion will vary depending on your individual mobility and flexibility.
- Pause for a second at the bottom, and initiate the movement by contracting your glutes as hard as possible, back to the starting position. Try to imagine initiating the movement by squeezing your butt cheeks together. Remember to keep your upper back rounded so you don’t begin to rely solely on your lower back for the movement.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.